After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Auburn University, Tina Boyd moved home to Roswell, Ga. to begin her job search. She networked and interviewed with churches and non-profit organizations but was told repeatedly that she didn’t have enough education or experience. One particular church application asked her opinion of a doctrinal piece of literature, and Tina had a clear moment where she realized, “I have no idea what this thing even is, much less what my opinion is of it.”
She consulted a former supervisor for help, and the supervisor directed her to an online job board where CYMT had a posting. “I remember when I first saw it, I thought it was too good to be true: both the specifically named inadequacies I’d been hearing about could be addressed in one three year opportunity?! I tentatively applied, and the rest is history,” said Tina.
Tina serves at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Ala., as a program staff member on a multi-person youth staff. She teaches Sunday school, leads small groups, and assists with planning and implementing Sunday night programming.
Working in a multi-staff context certainly has its pros and cons. “As an introvert I sometimes struggle being in the midst of ‘all the people, all the time,’ but have learned to find balance in taking a couple of off campus hours during the week, or simply finding a good place to hole up in the church if I’m doing something that requires a lot of concentration,” she says. She does enjoy having people around to bounce ideas off of and to process things that are going on in the lives of the students and in the ministry. Tina also shares that the staff she works with represents a pretty wide range of strengths. That diversity is helpful as they balance each other out well and have learned to fall back on one another in their weak areas.
Recently, Tina was part of a particularly unique experience. During a special day of service, the youth ministry students were replacing a roof on a storage shed for Urban Ministries in downtown Birmingham. Roofing projects have been the service project of choice of the youth ministry for many years; in fact, several parents were thrilled to have their children engage in the same kind of work they themselves did when they were in in the youth ministry at Canterbury UMC.
One mother who volunteered with her seventh grade daughter was incredibly enthusiastic about being a part of this project, and told Tina the man who was running point, Mr. Mac, actually taught her to roof when she was in the youth ministry. Tina remembers on the day of service, looking over at this woman at one point and seeing her eyes get a little misty. Tina says, “I followed her gaze up to the roof, and stood beside her as she witnessed the man who taught her to roof buildings not too long ago was now teaching her daughter how to roof.”
When thinking about this service day, Tina says it reminds her of two important things in youth ministry: “One, volunteers are essential to good youth ministry, and it should be the task of youth ministers to continually surround their students with solid people they can fall back on, at age 14 or age 40. And two, sometimes you can have everything perfectly set-up and planned for an event, and it can still go terribly wrong, but sometimes, you can have everything works right and then something happens where God moves way above and beyond the minutiae of who’s riding in what car for what shift. And that’s why I do what I do.”
Being in seminary has been a learning process for Tina that has also carried over in to how she thinks about ministry, especially in light of having studied Richard Osmer’s practical theological method. Prior to her CYMT experience, she would say, “It bothers me when we play dodgeball at the end of the gym where kids enter, because it means we close those doors. When kids come late they are literally walking in to a dodgeball game.” She has learned to go with her gut, and stop to really ask the questions, “what’s happening, why is it happening, what should be happening, and how can we realistically transition what’s happening to look more like what should be happening.” Now she can say, “It bothers me when we play games that require the gym doors to be closed because it communicates that we are a group that is closed off, when what we desire is that it be a place that is open to all students. So let’s either play a different game or keep dodgeball on the other end of the gym.”
Tina came into the program with some thoughts about what she believed, but being in seminary has allowed her to dig in to some of these areas of discomfort and explore a more robust theology. Her job at Canterbury UMC has allowed her tremendous space for learning and growth while being in the program. Tina has learned that she had beliefs she didn’t know she had because she had never been given the language to talk about them before. She also learned she had been saying she believed in certain things when she really did not. Her three years in CYMT have made her a more theologically informed youth minister who is able to apply her classroom experience to practical applications within her ministry.
CYMT is proud to announce the expansion of our original initiative into Theology Together 2.0. CYMT aims to develop a curriculum to be used in local congregations and ministries. Taking what we have learned about engaging youth in deep theological reflection during missional experiences and embedding those processes into congregational youth ministries.
"I hope students come away from my courses with the ability to think more deeply, richly and theologically about their youth ministry practice. I think a lot of what happens in youth ministry happens unreflectively and can be deforming to young people, and my courses are intended to give students a theological framework for evaluating and reforming their youth ministry practice."
Of course, I want students to drink deeply from the academic readings, lectures and discussions, and I want them to be informed by the academics. But more than that, I want them to see that youth ministry is a calling of God, an important part of God’s mission in the world, one that should give them pride and evoke humility at the same time.